We are extremely pleased to have been sent a photograph album belonging to Rifleman Leonard Burnett, who served with the London Irish Rifles during the First World War. The album was sent to us by Christopher Fagan, who had received it following the recent death of a member of Leonard’s family. Although none of the photographs are from the Western Front, it contains a set of interesting images of some of his comrades in arms and perhaps the family members of these men may now recognise some of these faces and names. Please let us know if any of them are familiar…
Although we don’t have the precise dates of Leonard’s service period with the LIR, we know that he joined the 3/18th Battalion in late 1916/early 1917, and initially served for several months with the reserve battalion at Morn Hill in Winchester. Most of the photos in the collection are from this period of training. It is also clear that Leonard was posted to join the 1/18th Battalion in July 1917 when they were positioned in the Ypres area of Belgium – a grim prospect indeed… and he would move with them to the Cambrai area in France in November and then seems to have suffered wounds or faced other injuries that would lead to his hospitalisation and return to the UK in December 1917.
Based on these dates, it is quite possible that Rifleman Burnett suffered wounds in the 47th (London) Division’s heroic defence of Bourlon Wood when German forces had used poisonous gas during their assaults. A number of the photos show scenes from a convalescent hospital in Southport and, no doubt, this is where he recovered from his ordeals. A few photos are dated in 1919 but it is unclear if Leonard did ever return to the London Irish Rifles but we certainly know that he made it through the war.
All in all, a fascinating set of photographs and we would like to thank Christopher Fagan and Marion Humphreys for passing the album onto us.